The Sun Belt Conference regular season title is still up for grabs between the Georgia State Panthers and the Georgia Southern Eagles. Fortunately, rather than having to go through a bunch of statistical tiebreakers these teams will face off today with the winner becoming the champion. If the February 5 encounter was any indication, this should be a well-contested game as the Eagles came away with a 58-54 victory over the Panthers. Of course, there can only be one champion, but here are the keys to victory for each team in this game.
Key 1: Win the Rebounding Battle
As a team, the Eagles average pulling down 38.2 boards each contest, the 16th best in all of Division 1 this season. Angel Matias and Trent Wiedeman both lead the Eagles, averaging 5.6 rebounds per contest while Eric Ferguson is the third member of the team to average at least five boards per game. It should be noted that Matias has played in 27 games, Wiedeman in 28 and Ferguson has played 22 games this season. Against the Panthers on February 5 Jelani Hewitt led the team with nine rebounds.
Here’s where statistics get interesting. Ranking-wise, rebounding isn’t exactly Georgia State’s forte as the Panthers rank all the way down at 272 in Division 1. As far as numbers actually go, it’s not nearly as bad as it seems because State averages 35.4 rebounds a game, meaning more than 250 teams have pulled down 2.8 more rebounds in between the two Georgia teams. Markus Crider leads the team with 6.4 boards a game.
Key 2: R.J. Hunter
Hunter may not have one great stat-line that jumps out, but he has several good ones to his credit. He does lead the team with two steal a game, but it usually takes more turnovers than that to change the outcome of a game. Hunter is second on the Panthers in four categories: points (19.2), rebounds (4.7), assists (3.9) and blocks (1.0). It should be noted that while Ryan Harrow has the edge in points and assists, he’s played in five fewer games, meaning Hunter is even more consistent.READ MORE: DeKalb Co. Sheriff's Office Holds 'Boys To Men Summer Camp'
Key 3: Make the Free Throws
While both teams shoot fine from the charity stripe, Georgia State does it just a little bit better. So far the Panthers have gone 452-628 (72.0 percent) from the line. Hunter leads the team going 168-195 (86.2 percent) and Curtis Washington may be second on the team regarding percentage of free throws made with 77.1, but he hasn’t even attempted 50 of these during the entire season. Harrow would probably be the second-best option for State in a late-game situation as he has the second most attempts (71-99) and the fourth best percentage (71.7) on the team.
Georgia Southern has gone 382-567 (67.3 percent) so far. Just like with Washington for State, Devonte Boykins free throws numbers are deceiving for Southern. He’s only 5-6 for the season which explains his impressive 83.3 percent. Hewitt is the true leader of the team as he’s 146-176 (83.0 percent) from the charity stripe so far. Right behind him Wiedeman who has gone 57-80 (71.3 percent).
Tip-off for the Sun Belt regular season championship is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET today.MORE NEWS: Georgia Unemployed Workers March In Protest Against Labor Commissioner Butler, Governor Kemp
Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist. From an early age, sports have played a major role in his life. He graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Journalism. After college he spent 2 years working with CNN Sports and still occasionally writes sports articles for several publications both in the United States and Canada. His work can be found on Examiner.com.